Research and Analysis by Kelly A. Olsen
This article examines poverty among persons aged 65 or older under experimental measures, which are based on a 1995 report released by the National Academy of Sciences. When compared with the official measure, the experimental measure produces higher poverty rates for all groups and narrower differences in poverty rates across groups.
Over the past several years, a number of policymakers have proposed creating national individual accounts (IAs) for retirement whose assets would be individually owned and directed among investment options. Some proposals would create an IA program outside Social Security; others would integrate IAs into the Social Security program itself. All IA proposals, however, would entail administrative functions, costs, and considerations. Identifying and recognizing those administrative elements are important steps in assessing the desirability, feasibility, and optimal design of IAs.
This paper summarizes the administrative operation of Social Security today; provides SSA's estimated administrative costs for two hypothetical IA programs (that is, only the costs that SSA could experience, not those that employers, other agencies, and other parties could incur); and highlights major considerations raised by IA administrative costs and choices.
Some Social Security reform proposals, such as two of the three offered by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, would modify and strengthen Social Security's special minimum benefit provision, which is intended to enhance benefits for low earners and is phasing out under current law. In order to inform policymakers as they continue to deliberate the provision's future, this article presents the most recent and comprehensive history and analysis available about the special minimum benefit.